The Hacker: The magician to conjure up when chips are down is Pelz

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The Independent Online

My short game has long been an object of derision. One professional actually gaveme my money back after a chipping lesson. He said I was worse at the end of it than I had been before. That hurt. I can take criticism and have learned to cope with the mockery, but I cannot stand pity.

My work with the wedge has improved slightly but there is a long way to go. It is more of a mental problem than one of technique so the battle is within, but it is a battle I am determined to win.

Every hacker should consider joining in, because the clear message from Royal Birkdale this weekend is that the short game holds the key to solving some of our miseries.

Top pros have long been susceptible to a bit of guru worship and the latest coaching fashion is to concentrate on pitching and chipping.

Lee Westwood's recent improvement has been linked to the close-in coaching he has been receiving from the former Tour pro Mark Roe. Roe has discovered the knack of sorting out the short game for players and charges £300 an hour, plus VAT, for his services. Don't bother to try to get a quick 10 minutes from him. He onlydoes a minimum of a three-hour lesson.

I don't know how much Stan Utley charges, but the former US Tour pro is credited with a major contribution to Sergio Garcia's big improvement around the green.

The daddy of all the short-game magicians is Dave Pelz, who has been at it for years. His most successful pupil is Phil Mickelson, who was desperate to win a major when he engaged Pelz in 2003. Since then he has won three.

Pelz is an ex-Nasa physicist who has brought a scientific mind to how to play the final 60 yards of a hole, where 80 per cent of your strokes are taken. He has a string of short-game schools around the US. I've been to one at Boca Raton in Florida and it's very impressive. The week before last he opened his first school in Europe, and I was lucky enough to have some tuition not only from the man himself but from his team of instructors, who included his son Eddie.

The school is situated in the new Killeen Castle golf complex in Co Meath, which contains a superb Jack Nicklaus-designed course. The facilities are already first-class and they are in the process of building a luxury hotel around the recently refurbished castle.

The Pelz school occupies 11 acres and they offer clinics of one, two or three days. These are conducted very thoroughly, with a frank appraisal givenat the end.

I cannot say yet what effect Pelz's lessons are going to have, because through being at the Open I haven't had chance yet to put them into practice, but I shall be reporting my progress.

My son was with me at Killeen Castle, and while we were having a drink withEddie Pelz, my son said tohim: "Eddie, you and I have something in common. You are the son of the best chipper in the world and I am the son of the worst."

That may give you some idea of the size of the task.